The Cost of Loving is widely regarded as The Style Council's worst album. Compared to the rest of the group's catalog, this is a fair assessment. However, many folks feel the need to dismiss the album altogether; this is too bad, because, though the album is decidely flawed, there really are some fine songs to be found here.
The first problem with the album was the timing of its release. Unlike the previous TSC albums (including the US mini-LP compilation, Introducing The Style Council), which had come out in either spring or summer, The Cost of Loving came out smack in the middle of winter. The overall sound of the album seemed to reflect this, lacking the spirit of its predecessors.
It was also the first Style Council album to boast a proper band lineup, whereas the group had previously been Paul Weller and Mick Talbot with an ever-shifting cast of Honorary Councillors. Only the group's decision to bring in different people (among them Curtis Mayfield) to mix each song was in keeping with this tradition.
As far as the songs go, the only serious misstep is "Right to go", ruined by some embarrassing (and dated) "rappin" by The Dynamic Three. However, the title track suffers from a needlessly clunky arrangement (a much-improved, re-recorded version was released later that year as the b-side of "Wanted"), "Angel" is a bit lackluster sounding, and "Waiting" was Weller's first single in many years to miss the UK top 40. But, not all is lost...
"It didn't matter" was the biggest hit from the album; though slightly droney, its passion carries it through. The real highlights of the album, in my view, are "Heavens above" and "Fairy tales". Not only do these two songs come the closest to achieving the soulful sound TSC appeared to be striving for, but they're also the most passionate songs on the album - not to mention the most political. Additionally, "Fairy tales" (politics aside, a party tune) was mixed by the great Curtis Mayfield.
Rounding out the album are the lurvely, romantic "Walking the night", and the so-called 'hidden track' (it wasn't listed on the UK LP) "A woman's song", a stinging piece based on a children's lullaby.
Could this have been a better album? Sure. But you'd be missing out if you were to ignore it...